We’re finally in the home stretch of the schedule where teams begin to see their post-season futures take shape. Florida State locked themselves into the ACC Championship Game with a 24-7 win over Pitt. It wasn’t a pretty game for the playoff hopefuls as it took until the second half for the Seminoles to pull away from the overmatched Panthers. The loss sealed the fate of Pitt to remain home for the postseason as they suffered their 7th loss on the season.
Virginia hoped to stay alive against Georgia Tech for another week but an injury to QB Tony Muskett on the opening drive handicapped the offense. Georgia Tech had a sluggish start, but their even-quarter magic came to life once more and buried the Cavaliers 45-17.
Duke was missing their own QB Riley Leonard when they took on Wake Forest on Thursday night. It’s been a rough few weeks for the Blue Devils as Leonard has battled injury, but they staved off a third straight loss by spreading around the rushing attack. Wake Forest outgained Duke significantly 400 to 267 in total yards, but the Duke defense did enough to keep them out of the endzone.
Boston College and Syracuse battled on Friday night, and no one told them scoring was encouraged. Syracuse suffered the loss 17-10 and dropped to 0-5 in conference play after opening the season with a 4-0 non-conference record. Boston College looked sloppy in their narrow win against Syracuse who was short their starting QB. Turnovers plagued both teams, but Syracuse coughed the ball up 4 times to BC’s 2.
North Carolina finally worked in their FCS foe Campbell who couldn’t come at a better time after taking two big upsets on the chin. The offense moved the ball to devastating effect in a 59-7 win against the Fighting Camels. Despite the competition, the defense had to feel better allowing only 287 yards on the day.
Clemson was yet again a part of another upset. Luckily for the Tigers, they were doing the upsetting for a change. Notre Dame came in only a -2.5 favorite but appeared well-equipped to handle Clemson’s struggling offense minus RB Will Shipley. It looks like Dabo Swinney’s tirade over being called out motivated his team, or at least Phil Mafah, who ran for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns. Clemson would only have 285 yards on the day.
Want to know a way to not win a game? By having your QB throw three interceptions to the other team and no touchdowns to his own. That would be what Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke did against NC State in a 20-6 loss. Miami outgained NC State, but the Wolfpack's defense continues to give opposing teams fits at the goal line and their team another win.
The best win on the week came from Louisville who left no doubt against a Virginia Tech team who had been gaining their footing as the season progressed. There was no Hokie Stone (yes, they are named for a rock) to find footing on here as Louisville cruised past them 34-3. The Cardinal defense was a field goal shy of a shutout, but only allowing 140 yards is an impressive feat.
As it stands, Florida State is selling tickets to the title game and Louisville can tentatively join them with just one more win. Seven of the fourteen ACC teams have already clinched bowl berths and the winner between Georgia Tech and Clemson will make 8 after next week’s games. Virginia and Pitt are the only two who have reached the 7-loss threshold and no one else is in danger of it this week.
- Florida State - Officially locked into the top spot of the conference standings the Seminoles will be playing for pride and bragging rights as they finish out against Miami coming up and two non-conference games against North Alabama and Florida. They may not see another true test until December.
- Louisville - They don’t need to make it unscathed to December to play for the title, but a very special season would be in store if they win out and claim an 11-1 record in Jeff Brohm’s first year returned to his alma mater. The Pitt loss earlier this year has to sting but it certainly hasn’t slowed them down.
- North Carolina State - The Wolfpack are stringing together some solid wins and have the defense to hang with almost any team they face. Wake Forest will not pose a threat when it comes to scoring, but being able to score against Wake will prove if this team is the full package.
- Boston College - It was thought at the beginning of the season that Coach Hafley might be coaching his last season with the Eagles. Instead, they have strung together 5 straight wins and could secure a respectable bowl with a couple more. Virginia Tech, Pitt, and Miami are all possible for this surprise team.
- North Carolina - It wasn’t a win that moved the needle, but the Tar Heels are back on a winning track and 7 wins to their name. Duke is on the docket, and the Tar Heels will not want to add them to their string of losses in what is becoming a disappointing season.
- Georgia Tech - Coach Brent Key was sick and tired of how his team couldn’t put together back-to-back wins as they’ve spent the season alternating wins. The Yellow Jackets decided to take care of that narrative by winning in Charlottesville which has been unkind to them over the years. Georgia Tech has solidified itself as third in the standings. A big win over Clemson would get them bowl-eligible for the first time since 2018.
- Clemson - The Tigers cast aside their struggles this week and popped Notre Dame in the mouth. It was a much-needed win or there was a chance Clemson could risk not making a bowl. Something that would have been considered impossible at the start of the season.
- Virginia Tech - Had the Hokies beaten Louisville this week they would have been in the driver’s seat as the runner-up to FSU in the conference standings. Instead, they were flattened by Louisville’s defense. A bowl game is still in the cards, but they need to win two of the final three.
- Miami - Another dismal showing by the Hurricanes as the season spirals out of control. It’s becoming a tradition for Miami to start hot only to suffer a loss and keep fading down the stretch. They’ve earned a bowl this year, but a likely loss to FSU next week won’t make the Hurricane faithful feel any better.
- Duke - The Blue Devils barely eeked it out over Wake Forest with a field goal at the end to break the tie. It was enough to get them bowl-eligible, but Duke needs a healthy Riley Leonard back to lead the offense. It was enough for a struggling Wake, but UNC is going to score points. Duke will need to match it, and they can if they have Leonard’s running threat.
- Pittsburgh - It was a respectable showing if you only glanced at the final score, but FSU was down two key playmakers on offense. The Panthers never showed any signs they were going to move the ball consistently against the Seminoles. That is the trend for Pitt this year, and while Syracuse is certainly winnable, it’ll do little to cool the ire of Pitt’s fanbase.
- Wake Forest - The Deacs needed this win if they wanted to go bowling. It was close, but a walk-off field goal sent Wake home the losers with a 4-5 overall record. Three games are remaining, but NC State and Notre Dame do not look likely. They certainly can’t stub their toe against Syracuse in the final game or else they could lay claim to last in the standings.
- Virginia - A 2-6 Cavalier team was favored by 2.5 at home against a 4-4 Georgia Tech team who had just upset UNC. Whatever reason Vegas had it was certainly not the correct one when Tech hung 45 on them. Virginia had shown progress in some tough losses but that was all undone. Louisville is next, and outside their blip against Pitt, has been solid all year long. Coach Tony Elliot needs to steal one or two more wins to have the heat on his seat to cool.
- Syracuse - There probably won’t be much turnover among coaches across the ACC this year, but Dino Babers will likely be the lone exception. His offense has started to lag in recent years against ACC opponents and has only beaten one ACC team, Boston College last year, in the last 10 matchups. There is a small ray of hope in that they end with Pitt, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest. Georgia Tech is starting to heat up, but the other two could save Dino and a bowl appearance.